Winner of the Jean Ragnotti Trophy awarded to the best performer, Romain Di Fante made a promising start in the Clio R3T Trophy France. In the title race just until the final leg of the year, the best Junior of the season made a strong impact before losing out to Boris Carminati.
Winner of the 2013 Rallye Jeunes detection scheme, Romain Di Fante tackled the French Junior Rally Championship in the aftermath. After a learning year that concluded with a win on the Var, he ran at the sharp end of the order in 2015 and 2016 before the introduction of a new car that he took to fourth place.
To boost his budding career, he turned to the French Rally Cup and then took up the challenge of a bigger category by entering the Clio R3T Trophy France this year.
Second fastest on the first special stage of the Rallye Lyon-Charbonnières, Romain Di Fante dropped down the order on the next test due to a puncture. Moving back up to fifth place with a superb attack, he confirmed his potential in racing for the win on the Rallye Vosges Grand-Est where he finished ninth at the end of a difficult weekend.
“Boris built up a big lead early on in scoring a lot of points while we had to deal with a puncture”, he says regrettably. “We then wasted a good opportunity on the Vosges. Boris went off the road and we were second despite a pace note mistake that cost us 40 seconds. The victory was ours for the taking, but we made a similar mistake on the opening special stage of day two. We lost four and a half minutes with mechanical problems that this created afterwards. As much as I knew the Charbo and its roads by heart, I was discovering a new rally in the Vosges with a much more powerful car than anything I was used to. It has, however, allowed me to make progress. For example, I didn’t specifically mention braking distances in my pace notes, but I’ve been doing it systematically ever since!"
However, he wasted no time in converting his speed into silverware. Involved in an intense three-way fight for the win on Rallye Aveyron Rouergue Occitanie, he kept a cool head to score his first podium at just 7.5s to the winner, before delivering a mature drive to win Rallye Mont-Blanc Morzine... And trail leader Boris Carminati by just one point!
“It was our most complete weekend of the season”, he remembers. “We took the lead on the first special stage; we built a big lead on the first day and added to it the next day before taking care to finish. Everything went really well, with no mistakes, and this is what we wanted to do again going forward... It is my best moment of the year and a reference for the future.”
A few weeks later, the much-awaited duel between Boris Carminati and Romain Di Fante lived up to all its billing on Rallye Cœur de France. The native of Nice led the way at the conclusion of day one, but a run through a field Sunday morning forced him to settle for second place. With no other choice but to beat his rival in the final round, he finally saw his title hopes vanish between the violent showers and a puncture on Rallye du Var.
“Our inexperience let us down at the beginning and at end of the year, but I was already satisfied before the Var”, he explains. “It was still a positive campaign as I didn’t expect to have a shot for the title in my first year. We put in a very good season against Boris and we can’t forget that the entire team was new to this high-level category. Of course, we have all made small mistakes, but I am convinced that we will come out of it stronger."
“First place among the Juniors wasn’t necessarily a target, but we knew we could do it”, continues the driver navigated by Patrick Chiappe. “On the other hand, I am really pleased about the Best Performer Trophy awarding the most scratch times during the year. It shows that we had a lot of speed despite a lack of consistency.”
Despite his relative inexperience, Romain Di Fante has shown he can quickly adapt to the Clio R3T and R3 category which he attributes to several factors that should be real assets in his future challenges.
“When I was younger, I took on a lot of different sports, like trial, karting and a lot of simulation”, he says. “In the simulator, there is all the cars and all the circuits so you have to adapt as quickly as possible. Getting used to a race car quickly became one of my strengths and it helped me win the Rallye Jeunes, so it’s pretty good to have this as a strong point!"
"At the same time, a lot of sacrifices were made this year and choices will have to be made to try to put together a program with all of us next year", he concludes. “We are working on it with our partners and the team. We’d really like to continue with Renault, whose ideas like the dealership trophy are good. Maybe if we manage to convince a dealer to help us, we could take part in the future Clio Trophy France!"